Task force report suggests new multi-rink facility in Charlottetown
Proposed facility would include two NHL-sized arenas, Eastlink Centre to be converted to community facility
A long-awaited report commissioned by the City of Charlottetown calls for the construction of a new multi-use sports facility with two ice rinks to replace the existing Eastlink Centre.
The report, compiled by a task force of seven people over more than a year, suggests the Eastlink Centre doesn't have the functionality to draw in bigger shows and should be converted into a community use facility.
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"One of the knocks on the building when you talk to theatrical people and promoters … is that the building doesn't have enough ground to ceiling space to do things like string lights," said task force chair Mike Hennessey.
"The deficits are increasing year after year. The number of events are coming down and we believe from the statistics that we looked at that they will continue to decline and it's time to start looking at the construction of a new one."
2 rinks in new building
In order to compile the report, the task force looked at how to maximize ice use in the city and how best to deal with aging facilities that the city is responsible for.
"The problem is really two-fold," said Hennessey.
"How do you look at a multi-use facility and whether we should or shouldn't be doing that as a city, or how do you make sure there's enough ice time at the community level."
The report recommends building two ice spaces in the new facility, both NHL regulation size. One should be a 5,000 seat arena and the other a community-sized space with 400 to 500 seats.
There are also recommendations to include space for trade shows and enhanced restaurant and concession spaces.
1 arena repurposed, another demolished
The plan also calls for the decommissioning of two older rinks, Simmons and Cody Banks.
Hennessey said Simmons had reached the end of its life and should be demolished.
The report noted repairs and improvements to Simmons were estimated to be about $6.4 million as of 2013.
However, Cody Banks still has useful life left in it and the report recommends using it as a dry use arena.
"Looking at the deficits of the facilities we're talking about there's some opportunity to do the operational things better with new properties." said Hennessey.
Money and land needed
Two big factors need to be looked at first by city council.
The first is money. The cost of a new facility is estimated between $74 and $81 million.
"That's going to require a lot of help," said Coun. Kevin Ramsay, chair of the advanced planning, priorities and special projects committee.
"We need funding, we need to be in partnership with everybody and that's our first main key is to talk with the province, talk to the feds and talk to our own council and see where we're going to go with this."
Finding space in Charlottetown
The second is land. The task force looked at several pieces of land, but the most viable is where the provincial government garage sits now, off Riverside Drive.
The city would have to reach a deal with the province.
"Our negotiations will be starting with the province after Christmas," said Ramsay. "If our council approves the go ahead on this, and then we'll be sitting down with the province and seeing what the price tag is on that."
Council first has to decide if they want to go ahead with the plan at all.
Ramsay said he suspects they will make their decision early in the new year.
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